Rice reflects on gender equality, security risks
For Condoleezza Rice, who was born into an era marred by racial segregation, her drive to succeed has propelled her to soaring heights. But it was in the grounded values of family and community that she found the inspiration ― and empowerment ― to eventually become the United States’ top diplomat.
In a recent interview with Korea Times’ sister paper Hankook Ilbo in Washington, D.C., the former Secretary of State and National Security Advisor to George W. Bush described how her parents empowered her to overcome odds, and also touched on regional security concerns.
“They valued education ― family, faith and education ― above all else,” she said of her parents, both teachers. “What was extraordinary about it was that, in segregated Birmingham, Alabama, where you couldn’t go into a restaurant and you couldn’t stay in a hotel, they still had me convinced I could be president of the United States if I wanted to be.”
Today, as tough headlines reveal the brutal realities facing many women around the world, it is precisely empowerment that she believes will unlock a new era of gender equality that can change the world.
Rice, who recently published a memoir on that upbringing, will travel to Seoul to participate in the Global Women’s Leadership conference, Nov. 29 to 30, hosted by the Hankook Ilbo.
Despite overall progress in gender equality worldwide, she said that in conflict-ridden areas such as the Congo and Sudan, the situation for many women is worsening. “It usually relates to the use of rape as a weapon of war,” said Rice, who in 2008 pushed the U.N. to classify rape as a war tactic.
Women have also been hit harder by the economic crisis ― more often the first to be laid off and forced to work in harsher conditions ― and are seen as chronically underutilized as a growth engine to pull out of the worldwide slump.
Efforts to empower girls and women not only address gender inequality but also human rights and poverty, said Rice, who now teaches at Stanford University.
“I’ve always believed that if you empower women, you will not have a problem with population control,” she said. “If you educate women, they are not going to have children at age 12 and they are not going to have 15 kids. If you educate women, they will not be trafficked into brothels when they are 11.”
Rice said micro-finance programs to equip women in developing countries with economic opportunities pay dividends not only for individuals and families but also needed employment for entire communities.
“Some of them ultimately will change the economic dynamics of their whole country. If you do go after the women’s issues you are going to have a very positive effect on these other problems,” she said.
Reflecting on her own success, the 56-year-old stressed that women do not have to sacrifice marriage and family to take on influential roles. “I don’t think women have to turn away from family and children to achieve. I know of plenty of women who have achieved and have had family and career,” she said.
Rice, who played a major role in the Bush administration’s negotiations with North Korea, expressed concern over the transfer of power underway in the isolated state but said the six-party denuclearization talks remain the appropriate framework to deal with Pyongyang.
The North, which is believed to have separated enough plutonium for up to 12 nuclear warheads, recently formalized the youngest son of leader Kim Jong-il ― the inexperienced Kim Jong-un ― as heir by elevating him to key party and military positions.
The move has raised speculation over whether a power struggle could occur amongst military factions when the elder Kim eventually dies and if a new regime could one day signal reform for the impoverished country.
“I don’t know any other way (the North) could change except for the transfer of power from the father to the son,” she said. “What we don’t know is what other actors, what other factors, there are. How might the military accept this change?”
Members of the six-party denuclearization talks are consulting over how and when to resume the negotiations, after Pyongyang, in recent months, has signaled its willingness to return to the table. Seoul and Washington maintain that the North must first prove its genuine willingness to denuclearize.
Prospects for resumption were thrown into limbo in March by the sinking of the South Korean vessel Cheonan, an incident that Seoul blames on a North Korean torpedo attack but Pyongyang denies. Some believe Kim Jong-un masterminded the attack to consolidate
his power among military figures.
Rice said she believes involved parties are doing what they can to move the stalled talks forward.
“The main thing is to keep the other five (parties) united around a position that North Korea must give up its nuclear weapons,” she said. “Let’s see if North Korea within several months or a year might try again to restart the talks. Under the right circumstances, that’s what should be done.”
콘돌리자 라이스 양성평등 강조
인종분리 정책으로 얼룩진 시대 속에서 태어난 콘돌리자 라이스에게 그녀의 성공하려는 투지는 그녀를 높은 곳으로 올려 놓았다.
코리아 타임스의 자매지 한국일보와 워싱턴에서 가진 인터뷰에서 부시 행정부에서 국무장관과 국가안보보좌관을 지낸 라이스는 그녀의 부모들이 어떻게 그녀가 역경을 이겨낼 수 있도록 힘을 주었는지를 밝히고 또한 안보문제에 대해서도 견해를 밝혔다.
라이스 전 국무장관은 그녀의 “부모는 가족과 신념 그리고 교육에 대해 그 어떤 것보다 가치를 두었다”면서 “특별했던 것은 식당에도 갈 수 없고 호텔에도 머물 수 없는 분리주의 앨라배마주 버밍험에서 그들은 나에게 내가 원하면 미국의 대통령도 될 수 있다고 나를 확신시키는 것이었다”고 말했다.
라이스 전 국무장관은 오늘날 신문제목들이 세계도처에서 여성들이 직면하고 있는 잔혹한 현실을 들춰내고 있는다며 그녀는 여성들에게 자율권을 주는 것만이 세계를 변화시킬 수 있는 양성평등의 시대를 열 수 있을 것이라고 믿는다고 밝혔다.
최근 가정교육에 관한 자서전을 출간한 라이스 전 국무장관은 한국일보가 11월 29-30일 주최하는 세계 여성 리더쉽 회의에 참석하기 위해 한국을 방문할 예정이다.